CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Derbyshire Life today CLICK HERE

Rabbits, rabbits, rabbits

PUBLISHED: 09:41 24 November 2010 | UPDATED: 18:13 20 February 2013

Rabbits, rabbits, rabbits

Rabbits, rabbits, rabbits

Martyn Baguley investigates the danger facing one of our most endearing wild animals

Rabbits will be affected by global warming you know. My friend revelled in making controversial and legpulling statements, so I didnt rise to the bait at the time. But his words nagged at me so eventually I googled Rabbits and Climate Change. And there it was, an article in the prestigious publication New Scientist: Climate change could spread a lethal plague that would wreak havoc among Britains rabbit population. Rabbit haemorrhagic disease, first recognised in China in 1984, is a highly contagious virus that has a 90 per cent mortality rate in infected animals. Death usually occurs in 1-3 days. When the virus escaped due to a laboratory accident in southern Australia in 1995, it killed some 10 million rabbits in eight weeks. It has been present in wild rabbits in Britain since 1994, mainly in the warmer south, but some experts believe that global warming could see its effects spreading north.


Poor little things; first myxomatosis that killed 99 per cent of our rabbits when it arrived in Britain in 1953, now rabbit haemorrhagic disease. I know that they damage agricultural crops, browse young trees and their burrows can cause subsidence problems, but they are not all bad news: rabbit grazing can help to maintain calcareous grassland, dunes and heathland habitats.


Originally, the word for an adult rabbit was coney or cony, rabbit being the name given to the young animals. The word rabbit, however, came to be adopted for both adult and young animals during the 19th century. More recently the term kit has been used to refer to a young rabbit. A group of young rabbits is referred to as a kindle.


The origin of the name bunny or bunny rabbit, especially when referring to young, domesticated rabbits, is obscure. Bun was an English dialect word, recorded from the sixteenth century, for a squirrel or rabbit. The word seems to have evolved into bunny in the following century, possibly in recognition of the animals endearing characters, and then become focused on the rabbit.


Superstitions about rabbits, and also hares, are many and varied and go back to very early times when they were regarded as symbolic of the moon god because they played at night time. I bet that on Rabbit Day the first day of the month many readers make the words Rabbits, Rabbits, Rabbits (or variants like White Rabbits) the first they say aloud, early in the morning, to ensure that a month of good luck will follow. I was taught to follow the words with a wish: was that a local variant? A rabbits hind foot is a longestablished, world-wide good luck charm. One explanation for this is that the animals strong hind legs touch the ground ahead of its front ones; an unusual way for an animal to walk. To our ancestors this was considered so remarkable that they ascribed magical powers to their hind feet.


Pests to some they may be but personally I hope that my grandchildren, and their children, will always be able to see some rabbits bobbing around the countryside. We can be optimistic after all they survived myxomatosis but perhaps we can help them by remembering our bunnies in our next Rabbit Day wish. Sorry Im rabbitting on*.


Cockney rhyming slang: Rabbit and Pork = Talk.



0 comments

More from Out & About

A ten-minute drive from the western edge of Sheffield brings thrill-seekers to a Derbyshire valley where outdoor activities are thriving.

Read more

Andrew Griffiths meets Jim Dixon, the former Chief Executive Officer of the Peak District National Park.

Read more

This walk offers a dance with the Dove and a meander by the Manifold, whilst along the way passing a church, castle remains, country houses and a hollow way

Read more

With winter on the horizon, trees glow with colour, migratory birds arrive and house spiders set off in search of a mate

Read more

Ann Hodgkin investigates a case of the sincerest form of flattery… or industrial espionage!

Read more

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust’s vision is of landscapes rich in wildlife, valued by everyone. They will achieve this 
by pursuing their mission of creating Living Landscapes. Here Julia Gow, the White Peak Reserve Officer at Derbyshire Wildlife Trust tells us about the reserve above the River Wye

Read more

Nigel Powlson visits Sudbury where a shopping courtyard is attracting even more visitors to this quintessential English village

Read more

If you’re walking in the Peak District, the chances are that you could encounter a reservoir at some point during your ramble. There are dozens of resevoirs dotted around all corners of the national park, we pick some of our favourite walks from our archive.

Read more
Peak District

A five-year Heritage Lottery-funded scheme, launched in 2010, was designed to encourage the restoration and conservation of the distinctive landscape character of a large area of north-east Derbyshire.

Read more

Enjoy the wonder of woodland in our glorious Derwent Valley on this park and ride special.

Read more

Paul Hobson reveals some of the fascinating wildlife there is to be found in this month of transition

Read more

From far away constellations to gas clouds, our night skies are bursting with natural wonders – if you know where to look... Viv Micklefield goes stargazing in Derbyshire

Read more

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust works across six Living Landscapes with 46 nature reserves to ensure there is wildlife and wild places for everyone. Reserve officer Sam Willis tells us about one of his favourite places – Ladybower Wood Nature Reserve

Read more

A multi-million pound makeover attracts more leading brands to one of the UK’s biggest shopping destinations

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy


Subscribe or buy a mag today

Topics of Interest


Local Business Directory


Property Search